Policy & Funding

Closing the Homework Gap Through Educational Broadband Service

A new study finds the licensing of unassigned Educational Broadband Service Spectrum to educators and nonprofits would reduce the digital divide by nearly 20 percent.

Closing the Homework Gap Through Educational Broadband Service 

A new study finds the licensing of unassigned Educational Broadband Service Spectrum to educators and nonprofits would reduce the digital divide by nearly 20 percent.

Education advocacy groups are turning up the heat on the Federal Communications Commission to keep the Educational Broadband Service spectrum in the hands of educational entities and tribal nations. A new study commissioned by the Schools, Health & Libraries Coalition finds assigning the remaining EBS licenses to educators and nonprofits would result in an 18.28 percent reduction in the digital divide, which amounts to 8.36 million new subscribers. The findings of the study were presented at a May 15 event hosted by SHLB.

Comparatively, the study estimates that auctioning of the remaining licenses in the 2.5 GHz band to commercial providers would only result in a 1.49 percent reduction in the digital divide and only amount to 682,000 new subscribers. However, the auction of the remaining spectrum would result to $52.25 million in revenue to the FCC whereas giving the spectrum to educators would result on zero revenue for the agency.

The new report comes just one week after SHLB and the Consortium for School Networking sent a petition to the FCC asking the agency to make sure that the EBS spectrum stays in the hands of educational leaders and tribal entities. On May 13, SHLB led a coalition of advocacy groups in sending a letter to the FCC requesting that the agency delay making a decision on what to do with the remaining 2.5 GHz licenses. “The [FCC] lacks anything close to the comprehensive record necessary for it to move forward on critical decisions about these issues that would, ultimately, have dramatic impacts on the future of the band,” the coalition wrote in the letter.

The letter also makes the case that the FCC should not make any decisions on the EBS spectrum until the FCC and the Department of Justice come to a decision on the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile. Since Sprint is the dominant operator in the EBS band through lease agreements in the with EBS licensees, the coalition argues that the merged company might have to divest itself of 2.5 GHz spectrum as a condition of the merger, which could have a large effect on educational institutions.

According to the study, assigning the remaining EBS licenses to educators would result in a 29.6 reduction in the homework gap, which amounts to connecting 196,000 children to broadband. Auctioning off the spectrum to commercial providers would result in a 1.13 percent reduction in the reduction of the homework gap.

Voqal, a national collaboration of EBS licensees, expressed its support for the SHLB study and keeping the EBS spectrum in the hands of educators. “The research clearly shows that using educational licensing windows provides greater public benefits than an overlay auction. As strong believers of the power of EBS to create a more educated and empowered public, Voqal believes the FCC has a clear path forward for maximizing the potential of EBS by putting it in the hands of those best poised to use it to bridge the digital divide and create a more connected and prosperous United States,” said Mark Colwell, director of telecommunications at Voqal.

More information on work to save the EBS spectrum for educational institutions can be found here.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@1105media.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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